Columns, Sports

Let’s Get Physical

I have worked out for years out of sheer vanity and an MO to war against my  less than ideal genes. I’ve reached my towering 5’2” height apex and I try to rein in my weight proportionally. My friend could care less about her weight, instead she channels all that energy onto her blowouts. A wise choice, because hair is one of the most mutable things on your person. I wish I had her non-chalance, but I don’t.

I wage this battle through an ongoing series of punishing workout videos and gym memberships. I prefer individual enterprises to team sports, which I believe are the embodiment of the dark side of communism. I have completed these workouts so you don’t have to.

1)   The Original 29 minute workout. This was the earliest video I remember doing. My diet consisted of a few horrible melba toasts and I did back-to-back workouts of this high-intensity, knee-corroding shitshow. It was all fake downhill skiing moves and dog-pee-on-hydrant leg lifts. I dropped down to 92 lbs then mom got concerned and started hassling me. The discovery of the wacky tabacky and subsequent munchies would pile those pounds back on in a few short years.  3/5 stars.

2)  Jane Fonda’s Original Workout: Before I knew her as outspoken feminist, she was the punishing sweatlord in high-cut leotards. She was an entirely a different species. Her background cronies would include a few plain yet impossibly thin brunettes and one token man. Her rapid fire commands were accompanied by a curious lack of actual sweating on her part. Later, I saw her in the depression-era, dance marathon film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They. She played a beleaguered performer who would dance til exhaustion for the pitiless cowds.  I rejoiced at seeing her winded, at long last.  3.5/5 stars.

3)   Elle McPherson – The Body Workout: Elle looking cool and calm on an Australian beach working out, perpetuating the hopeful myth that we would look like her if we only completed this series. The music was terrible.  Sting’s Fields of Gold, which just made me sad and hungry, and Suicide Blonde which began to sound like they were singing “Super Silo”. It sparked a passing interest in agriculture.  2/5 stars.

4)  Goodlife: This was a decent gym. They’d answer the phone with a chipper; “It’s a great day at Goodlife! How can I help you?”
I doubt they’re all great days, sweetheart, especially when you have to sort other people’s dirty towels all day. The founder, David Patchell-Evans, is ubiquitous, his image plastered everywhere like the Ayatollah Khomeini. There were mini-tvs with internet/music so you could tune out the German porno-grunting of the weightlifters. The group classes were helpful – there’s nothing like a screaming, alpha-female drill sargeant dictator to whip you into shape.  4/5 stars.

5)   YMCA:  I always had a special attachment to the YMCA (particularly the one in my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, ON) because of the overwhelming scent of popcorn emanating through the building. It was just like going to the movies, but instead of heading to a darkened theatre, you were heading to a warm pool of baby piss. The changerooms were a bit of a future-view nightmare, and there were too many kids screaming constantly in unison, but it did have a nostalgic appeal. And it was sliding-scale affordable. Downsides were all the preachy reminders about how to respect people and build community or whatever. If I wanted to hear that bullshit I’d still be working in non-profits. 3.5/5 stars.

6)   Bikram Yoga:  I hate yoga except for the last 10 minutes when I’m lying on the floor in corpse pose and feel briefly ‘spiritual’. Bikram Hot yoga was the exception to this – it was agonizing the entire time. My short, squat body started overheating immediately. I laid immobile, paralyzed at the sight of testicles poking out of the heather-grey micro shorts of the gentleman in front of me. As he glided into downward facing dog, sweat cascaded down them in great sheets, as if he were standing in a shower. I shuddered as I thought of the ancient ball sweat I was no doubt lying in at that moment.  1/5 stars.

7)   P90X:  Body shame is the only motivator that is powerful enough to endure listening to Tony Horton of P90X for two horrible months. It is a punishing constellation of charts and caloric intakes and Tony ’s obnoxiously chipper banter. “Bring it!” he exhorts, his plasticene skin stretched across razor sharp cheekbones. Effective to a point, although it could use more cardio. Keep it muted. 2/5 stars.

8)   Hip Hop Abs: This is from the same Beachbody Line as P90X, but our instructor, Shaun T, is considerably easier on the ears and eyes than Tony. This was fun; tucking, tightenng, tipping and generally becoming hypnotized by his rippling granite abdominals. It won’t give you abs like him unless you do some serious dieting as well, but Shaun is way cooler than Tony. 3/5 stars.

9)   Insanity: The continuation of Shaun T’s workout mayhem. Easily one of the hardest workout videos I’ve done.  An hour of plyometrics nearly every day, relentless circuits and dripping buckets. The upsides are that it requires no equipment and it’s time efficient. It will make you hate your life but man, will you look good! 5/5 stars.

10)  The Bar Method. This features a Rexella-Van-Impe look-a-like mincing around doing a series of subtle leg lifts and butt-squeezes to get you into tip-top dancer shape without any of that cumbersome cardio. Vaguely effective.  3/5 stars.

11) Jillian Micheals 30 Day Shred: Her mean approach is good for masochists. She is every gym teacher I’ve ever had. 3.5/5 stars.

12) Tae Bo: Billy Blanks is the Chief Commander of the Tae Bo Stasi. A good workout but largely ineffective during street fights. You will be transfixed by Billy’s glass eye(?) and near-incestuous attentions to the tall blonde woman he calls his ‘daughter’.  4/5 stars.

13)  Jackie Warner’s Power Circuit Training: Celebrity trainer to the stars and devoid of any conceivable personality. An automaton who lives, eats and breathes fitness and apparently never does anything fun/sexual/fattening. The workout is a little circuit training and effective with minimal equipment. It’s also nicely broken up into easily navigatable DVD segments. 4/5 stars.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Spectator Tribune.  Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson.

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